Last updated on 10/01/2019

If you are expecting or have a newborn baby, new research suggests adding one, two or even five furry pets to your growing family could protect children from developing asthma.

A Swedish study of pet-ownership has found the more cats and dogs in the household during the first year of life, the less likely a child developed chronic conditions such as asthma, eczema and hay fever.

While pets are recognised to provide mental health benefits the study, demonstrating a dose-dependent response between cat and dog ownership and allergy development, is the first study its kind.

With asthma now ranking in the top five chronic conditions patients present with to their doctor, Asthma Australia welcomes new evidence which furthers its understanding of the link between animals, asthma and allergies.

“If cats and dogs aren’t a trigger for your asthma or allergies, not only will a pet bring you other benefits, they might reduce the chance of your children developing allergies,” said Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman.

“The study focuses on dose-dependency, so the more pets a baby is exposed to, the less likely chronic conditions like asthma presents in those children at ages 7-9 years old.

“Remarkably, the study shows children who are exposed to five or more pets in the first year of life presented with zero allergies,” she said.

The RSPCA often run Adoption events, if you were considering bringing a pet into the home, this could well be the ideal time.

“This research is very exciting,” said RSPCA Qld spokesperson Michael Beatty.

“We’ve always known of the huge benefits pets bring to people’s lives. Pet therapy is a growing every year, particularly in relation to physical and mental disabilities and post- traumatic stress disorders. Pets also bring tremendous comfort to the elderly and the lonely. But this research shows how pets can also help children with allergies and chronic conditions such as asthma. It’s terrific news and of course we’re hoping it will encourage more parents to take on a pet-or pets- when their children are infants.”

“It’s important more research investigates these findings so we can understand more about the biological reasons behind it,” said Ms Goldman.

The Swedish research paper is available to view on PLUS One available here.

Asthma Australia is the health peak body representing people with asthma, people can seek support by booking a call with an Asthma Educator or calling 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462).